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Harmful Algae Bloom HABs
November 29, 2023

The following is WTLA reading of the Composited Cyanobacteria Index as reported by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, a visual scale based on true color imagery from the Copernicus- Sentinel 3a satellite of the EUMETSAT - image captured Tuesday Nov 28 is completely unobscured, clear view of the southeast water bodies, taken at wind speed 14.5 mph. Due to high wind, the assumption of no HAB activity can be challenged. The following interpretations are based on the Nov 28 image.

Lake Pontchartrain widespread area of very small localized HABs occupies the northwest quarter open water 100 thousand cells per 100 ml

  • Mandeville - no bloom detected
  • Fontainbleu State Park - no bloom detected

  • Wetland Watchers Park - inland water bodies no bloom detected
    Lake Maurepas no HAB activity visible
    Lac des Allemands lakewide HABs at 800 thousand cells per 100 ml concentration
    Bayou Fortier widespread HAB at the high concentration 800 thousand cells per 100 ml
    Lake Palourde lakewide HAB 500 thousand cells per 100 ml
    Lake Verret lakewide HAB 900 thousand to 1 million cells per 100 ml
    Lake Cataouatche no HAB activity detected
    Lake Salvador localized HAB along the west shoreline 100 to 200 thousand cells per 100 ml

    HABS - Harmful Algae Blooms Get informed and stay safe around the water this summer

    WaterToday collects algal bloom monitoring information from state and federal agencies including but not limited to the CDC, EPA, NOAA and state public health authorities. 

    HABs alerts are posted on our state maps according to the best available information reported by citizen groups, universities, state and/or federal monitoring agencies.

    Before you head out to the beach, pond or stream, check with local authorities to confirm the latest HABs conditions.
    Consider carrying a rapid test kit for microcystin, the most common of the cyanobacteria toxins.

    Sources for algal bloom data:
    Environmental Protection Agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN)
    The mission of the CyAN project is to support the environmental management and public use of U.S. lakes and estuaries by providing a useful and accessible approach to detecting and quantifying algal blooms and related water quality using satellite data records. 
    What is CyAN?:  Mobile and web-based application for cyanobacteria monitoring
    How does it work?  Users can enter the coordinates or name of local water bodies for monitoring information. 
    The CyAN project officially started October 1, 2015. It provided continental U.S. coverage using the Envisat MERIS archive from 2002-2012
    Sign up here:

    Centers for Disease Control

    Environmental Public Health Tracking provides data and information on health outcomes, the environment, population, and exposures, including harmful algal blooms occurring in water bodies of the USA, both freshwater and marine.

    CDC Public Notice on harmful Algae Blooms

    It is not possible to know if a large growth, or bloom, of algae or cyanobacteria (also called bluegreen algae) is harmful just by looking at it. Some blooms make toxins (poisons), which can still be in the water even when you can’t see a bloom. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful algae and cyanobacteria, what to do if you or a pet is exposed to them, and how to help prevent these blooms.

    Swimming and Wading: 
    Stay out of water with a bloom, rinse off if you or your pets are in contact with water
    If you see signs of a bloom, stay out of the water and keep your pets out of the water. Do not fish, swim, boat, or play water sports in areas where this is possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria.

    Do not go into or play in water that:
    • Smells bad
    • Looks discolored
    • Has foam, scum, algal mats, or paint-like streaks on the surface
    • Has dead fish or other animals washed up on its shore or beach
    Protect your pets and livestock from getting sick by keeping them away from water with possible harmful algae or cyanobacteria. Do not let animals:

    • Get in the water
    • Drink the water
    • Lick or eat mats of cyanobacteria or algae
    • Eat or graze near the water
    • Eat dead fish or other animals on the shore
    • Go on the beach or shoreline
    If you or your pets do go in water that may have a bloom, rinse yourself and your pets immediately afterward with tap water from a sink, shower, hose, or outdoor spigot. Do not let pets lick their fur until they have been rinsed. Pets may have harmful algae, cyanobacteria, or related toxins on their fur if they swim or play in water with a bloom.

    Do not fill pools with water directly from lakes, rivers, or ponds. The water could contain algal or cyanobacterial toxins or unsafe levels of germs.

    Drinking Water
    Follow local guidance about toxins in tap water
    If you are notified of cyanobacteria or their toxins in your public drinking water supply, follow guidance from your local or state government or water utility to reduce the chances of you or your animals getting sick.

    Harmful cyanobacteria may grow in water bodies that supply tap water. Although many water treatment plants can remove these toxins, tap water can be contaminated in certain situations. Cyanobacteria can also produce substances that are not harmful, but can change the taste or smell of tap water.
    If you have concerns about the appearance, smell, or taste of tap water that you are using, contact your water utility or health department. Consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking until the problem is resolved.

    Don’t boil water contaminated with toxins

    Boiling water does not remove toxins and can concentrate the toxin.

    Fish and shellfish:

    Be aware of advisories and health risks related to eating contaminated fish and shellfish

    Avoid eating very large reef fish such as grouper or amberjack, especially the head, gut, liver, or eggs. Large reef fish may be contaminated with ciguatoxin, the algal toxin that causes ciguatera fish poisoning

    See the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance for more information on reef fish associated with unsafe levels of toxins.

    Check for and follow local shellfish and fish advisories before eating any fish or shellfish you collect yourself. Algal and cyanobacterial toxins in fish or shellfish have no taste or odor. Cooking or preserving food does not remove toxins. Thus, you cannot tell if the seafood is safe by just looking at, smelling, or tasting it.

      Check to see if shellfish beds are closed. State shellfish control authorities -- usually state health departments or other state agencies -- are required to control for toxins where harmful algal blooms are likely to occur and toxins could build up in shellfish. Common ways state authorities control for algal toxins include routine monitoring for toxic algae or shellfish and testing shellfish for toxins before or after harvesting. If levels of toxins are unsafe, state authorities will close the area for shellfish harvesting until shellfish are safe to eat.

      Check safety advisories from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Fish and Shellfish Advisories and Safe Eating Guidelines website.

    Report any concerns to your local public health authorities.


    EPA notice to the public on harmful algae

    Harmful algal blooms can be green, blue, red or brown. They can be scummy or look like paint on the surface of the water.

    What are harmful algal blooms?

    Harmful algal blooms are overgrowths of algae in water. Some produce dangerous toxins in fresh or marine water but even nontoxic blooms hurt the environment and local economies.

    What are the effects of harmful algal blooms?

    Harmful algal blooms can:

    • Produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals

    • Create dead zones in the water

    • Raise treatment costs for drinking water

    • Hurt industries that depend on clean water

    The EPA has a role in enforcing environmental protection regulations to limit discharges into water bodies that contribute to the growth of harmful algal blooms.

    The EPA also maintains list of Impaired Water Bodies by state, those water bodies that are not supporting their ideal uses for recreation, including swimming, fishing and wading.  The EPA works with state authorities to identify water bodies that are not supporting their intended recreational uses, to set daily maximum limits for contaminants and nutrient load for impaired water bodies.  The EPA works with state and other federal agencies to investigate and prosecute violations of the Clean Water Act, with a role in ordering watershed plans that limit discharges to these water bodies to allow for recovery.

    Follow WT Clean Water Act Crime Box to learn about the work of the EPA in historic criminal prosecutions involving illegal discharges to water bodies, or making false reports about discharges.

    Check out our With the Flow report weekly to see spills, streamflows, algae blooms and drinking water advisories occurring in the same drainage area in the same time frame.

    Marine Blooms - Red Tide

    Q. What is red tide?

    A. Red Tide is caused by microscopic algae (plant-like microorganism) called Karenia brevis or K. brevis. The organism produces a toxin that can affect the central nervous system of fish, birds, mammals and other animals.

    Q: Is Red Tide, red?

    A: At high concentrations (called blooms), the organisms may discolor the water – sometimes red, light or dark green, brown, or clear.

    Q: Where does Red Tide occur?

    A: Red tides occur worldwide. K. brevis is found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico but has been found on the east coast of Florida and off the coast of North Carolina.

    Q: How long does it last?

    A: Red tide blooms can last days, weeks or months and can also change daily due to wind conditions. Onshore winds normally bring it near the shore and offshore winds drive it out to sea.

    Q: What causes Red Tide?

    A. A red tide bloom needs biology (the organisms), chemistry (natural or man-made nutrients for growth), and physics (concentrating and transport mechanisms). No single factor causes it. Tests are being conducted to see if coastal nutrients enhance or prolong blooms.

    Q: Can I swim in water affected by Red Tide?

    A: Most people can swim in red tide but it can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. If your skin is easily irritated, avoid red tide water. If you experience irritation, get out and thoroughly wash off with fresh water. Swimming near dead fish is not recommended.

    Q: What are the symptoms I may experience after contact with Red Tide?

    A: Symptoms from breathing red tide toxins are normally coughing, sneezing and teary eyes. These are usually temporary when red tide toxins are in the air. Wearing a particle filter mask may lessen the affects, and using over-the-counter antihistamines may decrease your symptoms. Check the marine forecast. Fewer toxins are in the air when the wind is blowing offshore.

    Q: Are there people who are more sensitive to the toxins?

    A: People with respiratory problems (like asthma or bronchitis) should avoid red tide areas, especially when winds are blowing toxins onto the shore. If you go to the beach, take your short acting inhaler with you. If you have symptoms, leave the beach and seek air conditioning.

    Q: Who do I call if I think I have become sick from Red Tide?

    A: Please consult with your primary care physician and contact the Coastal Health District at 912-262-2342.

    Q: Can I eat seafood at restaurants during a Red Tide?

    A: Commercial seafood found in restaurants and grocery stores is safe because it comes from red tide free water and is monitored by the government for safety.

    Q: Can I eat seafood from recreational harvesting during a Red Tide?

    A: Recreational fisherman must be careful:

  • Do not eat mollusks -- clams or oysters-- taken from red tide waters, as they contain toxins that cause a food poisoning called NSP --Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning.

  • Finfish caught live and healthy can be eaten if filleted.

  • Use common sense! Harvesting distressed or dead animals is not advised under any circumstances.

  • Edible parts of other animals commonly called shellfish -- crabs, shrimp and lobsters -- are not affected by the red tide organisms and can be eaten. Do not eat the tamale -- the green stuff, hepatopancreas.

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